Isn't the bottom line that it's all about love? You meet someone, you fall in love, at some point you know you want to spend the rest of your life with this person, and then you want to share that with the other important people in your life. You want to make a statement regarding how you feel about each other - you want your family and friends to share in that - you want your community to recognize what the two of you mean to each other and to recognize the commitment you've made to each other.
However, in additon to the love and commitment, marriage offers many legal benefits and responsibilities that protect couple relationships and families. Marriage also confers a certain social status upon a relationshhip - marriage is something we are familiar with, it is something we understand. When one person is "married" to another we know what that means.
Below we discuss the difference between actual civil marriage and "marriage-lite" (civil unions and domestic partnerships). We also list a fraction of the practical reasons why marriage matters to couples who choose to marry.
Marriage Equality USA is working for full civil marriage at both the state and federal levals, for the people in every state in the country. One of the first things that became abuntantly clear following the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in United States v. Windsor, the DOMA case, was that civil unions and domestic partnerships are unequivocally not equal to/the same as marriage. OPM Says Same-Sex Civil Unions Will 'Remain Ineligible For Most Federal Benefits' - courtesy of Towle Road, 9 July 2013. We thank Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) for their fact sheet Civil Marriage v. Civil Unions, What’s the difference? (Updated January 2013).
Marriage offers 1,138 Federal benefits and responsibilities, not including hundreds more offered by every state.
- In times of crisis, spouses have hospital visitation rights and can make medical decisions in event of illness or disability of their spouse.
- Employers offer spouses sick leave, bereavement leave, access to health insurance and pension
- The law provides certain automatic rights to a person's spouse regardless of whether or not a will exists.
- Married couples in elderly care facilities are generally not separated unless one spouse's health dictates hospitalization or special care.
- The dissolution of a marriage requires a determination of property distribution, award of child custody and support and spousal support. Absent divorce, there is no uniform system for sorting out the ending of a relationship.
Financial issues are complex and challenging, no matter the couple. When home ownership, kids and other assets are a part of the equation, planning for the present and especially the future is even more critical for greater security.
- Married couples are permitted to give an unlimited amount of gifts to each other without being taxed.
- The law presumes that a married couple with both names on the title to their home owns the property as "tenants by the entirety."
- A married couple, by statute, has creditor protection of their marital home.
- Many married people are entitled to financial benefits relating to their spouses, such as disability, pension and social security benefits.
- With marriage, a couple has the right to be treated as an economic unit and to file joint tax returns (and pay the marriage penalty), and obtain joint health, home and auto insurance policies.
- When a spouse dies, there is no need to prove ownership of every item in the household for taxable purposes.
- A child who grows up with married parents benefits from the fact that his or her parents' relationship is recognized by law and receives legal protections.
- Spouses are generally entitled to joint child custody and visitation upon divorce (and bear an obligation to pay child support).
- The mark of a strong family and healthy children is having parents who are nurturing, caring, and loving. Parents should be judged on their ability to parent, not by their age, race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Studies show that people who are married tend to live longer and lead healthier lives.
- For adults, a stable, happy marriage is the best protector against illness and premature death. Decades of research have clearly established these links. (Burman & Margolin, 1992; Dawson, 1991; Verbrugge, 1979).
- Studies on marriages have found that married people live longer, have higher incomes and wealth, engage less in risky behaviors, eat more healthily, and have fewer psychological problems than unmarried people. (Waite, Linda J. "Why Marriage Matters." Strengthening Marriage Roundtable. Washington, DC, June 1997)
- Research shows that unmarried couples have lower levels of happiness and well-being than married couples. (Popenoe, David and Dafoe Whitehead, Barbara, USA Today, July, 2000) A recent study shows that denying same-sex couples the right to marry has a negative impact on their mental health.
- I Do, But I can't: The impact of marriage denial on the mental health and sexual citizenship of lesbians and gay men in the United States (Herdt, G. & Kertzner, R. 2006).